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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 8:26 am 

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Vast new intelligence haul fuels next phase of fight against Islamic State

W .J. Hennigan
Los Angeles Times
September 9, 2017

Members of the Iraqi forces July 10 during the offensive against Islamic State fighters in Mosul. (Fadel Senna / AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. intelligence analysts have gained valuable insights into Islamic State’s planning and personnel from a vast cache of digital data and other material recovered from bombed-out offices, abandoned laptops and the cellphones of dead fighters in recently liberated areas of Iraq and Syria.

In the most dramatic gain, U.S. officials over the last two months have added thousands of names of known or suspected Islamic State operatives to an international watch list used at airports and other border crossings. The Interpol database now contains about 19,000 names.

The intelligence haul — the largest since U.S. forces entered the war in mid-2014 — threatens to overwhelm already stretched counter-terrorism and law enforcement agencies in Europe, where Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks in Paris, London and Stockholm this year.

With the extremist group’s army and self-declared caliphate fast shrinking, U.S. officials are concerned that foreign-born militants who once flocked to Iraq and Syria will try to escape before the U.S.-led coalition or other military forces can kill them.

In recent weeks, U.S.-backed ground forces have sent an estimated 30 terabytes of data — equal to nearly two years of nonstop video footage — to the National Media Exploitation Center in Bethesda, Md., a little-known arm of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence.

Analysts there are scrutinizing handwritten ledgers, computer spreadsheets, thumb drives, mobile phone memory cards and other materials for clues to terrorist cells or plots in Europe or elsewhere.

"The reason electronic exploitation is so critical is that enemy forces doesn't fake those records," an intelligence official said. "When you interrogate someone they can hide facts, but logs of phone calls and video clips don't lie. That stuff isn't made-up."

The material came from Mosul, the militants’ self-declared capital in Iraq, which was recaptured July 9 after an eight-month battle. Other intelligence was found in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar, which was retaken on Aug. 31, and from Raqqah, the group’s self-declared capital in Syria, where fighting is still underway.

“We've gotten significant amounts of intelligence as a result of the fall of these places — much is still being analyzed,” Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told The Times during a visit to Amman, Jordan, last month. “It has helped us to identify at least some of their aspirations.”

U.S. officials said they have gleaned planning ideas and outlines of potential operations rather than ongoing terrorist plots. But they also have gathered details into the group’s leadership and the hierarchy of fighters under command.

The biggest windfall came from what officials said were meticulous Islamic State records about the foreign fighters who arrived since convoys of black-flagged militants first stormed out of northern Syria and into Iraq in 2014, capturing large parts of both countries and the world’s attention.

The records include their names, aliases, home countries and other personal information.

The data has been shared with a 19-nation task force in Jordan, code-named Operation Gallant Phoenix, that tries to track foreign fighters in an effort to disrupt terrorist cells and networks. The task force is led by the U.S. military’s clandestine Joint Special Operations Command.

“If we find information about foreign fighters from a certain country, we go through proper procedures to make sure it's shared,” said Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat Islamic State. President Obama appointed McGurk in 2015 and President Trump has kept him on.

“So it is a very comprehensive campaign, militarily, on the ground, taking territory back; collecting information; processing it; and then building the database and the system so it can be shared and acted upon,” McGurk said in Amman.

With few U.S. troops on the ground, most of the intelligence is gathered by Iraqi security forces and U.S.-backed Syrian militias who have been trained to gather, bag and tag material to be analyzed back in the states.

A phone from the pocket of a dead fighter often includes phone numbers that can assist counter-terrorism investigations far afield. Indeed, intelligence recovered from the battlefield since 2015 has led to arrests or broken up plots in at least 15 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America and Canada, officials said.

Matthew Levitt, a former counter-terrorism official at the FBI and Treasury Department now with the nonpartisan Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said obtaining an alias, driver’s license, passport number or biometric data can be crucial to blocking a terrorist plot.

“Time and again, we’ve found that even the smallest bit of information can prove critical,” he said. “It could help us discover a person we never knew about or provide new leads on an underground cell.”

U.S. officials say Islamic State has lost 60% of the territory it captured in 2014, and its force has been halved to about 15,000 fighters. The recent intelligence indicates that they are concentrating forces and shifting their operations base to the Middle Euphrates River Valley, which lies between Iraq and Syria.

An estimated 8,000 fighters have moved to the valley, which stretches more than 150 miles from Deir el Zour in eastern Syria down to Rawa in western Iraq. They include most of the group’s leaders and their families, as well as key aides for administrative functions.

A U.S. special operations task force tracked and killed three leaders, who allegedly oversaw weapons research and drone operations, in the valley this week, officials said. In all, more than 35 military commanders, weapons production experts, financial facilitators and external attacks plotters have been killed there in the past year.

Islamic State founder Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is believed to be hiding in the area, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, who completed his tour this month as top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. He predicted the militants would make their “last stand” in the valley.

“That’s where they believe their last sanctuary is,” he told reporters on Aug. 31.

Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria analyst at the nonpartisan Institute for the Study of War in Washington, warned that the battle is far from over. Islamic State’s leadership ranks have proven resilient and its harsh Islamist message continues to find an audience among disaffected youth.

“The noose is tightening, so to speak, but these guys don’t quit,” she said. “The remaining terrain won’t be taken quickly or easily. And even when it is taken, there’s no guarantee that accomplishment will mark the end.”


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:04 am 

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jihadwatch.org Hungary PM: ‘Hungary is not an immigrant country and does not want to become one’
Christine Douglass-Williams

September 9, 2017 8:16 am By 4 Comments

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long made it clear that he will not surrender to European Union quotas on asylum seekers; he has also declared to Angela Merkel that “we won’t pay for YOUR error” in the face of Germany’s Muslim migrant crime and chaos. He has made his concerns clear about Muslim migrants’ unwillingness to assimilate. Orban has remained sternly resolved to keep his country free and democratic, declaring that the “independence and freedom of European nations are at stake.” Now he has stated, even more stridently:

Whereas other European nations have become immigrant countries due to obligations stemming from their colonial legacy, Hungary “has no colonial past” and thus feels no such obligation toward nations it has tried to dominate.

Unfortunately, Orban is wrong on one front: if colonial “sins” were committed in the past, this does not mean that Western countries must forever be indebted to anyone and everyone. The West has developed societal models of human rights and freedom for all. To jeopardize those freedoms is a catastrophic mistake, except, apparently, in the eyes of those who wish to subjugate the West under Sharia norms.

Western nations have long been immigrant-friendly countries, yet immigrant screening was once stringent, so as to ascertain whether those immigrating to foreign Western nations could contribute to the society to which they were coming. It was a two-way street, as it should be. Now the West is faced with a migrant/refugee crisis that it was unprepared for, particularly in light of the global jihad, of which the hijrah is a part.

With respect to Hungary, every nation is sovereign and must assess its own needs, which Orban is doing. Hungary, in fact, recently offered asylum to a young Iranian Christian convert who Sweden was about to deport back to Iran to face likely torture and death.

Far too many other Western nations are being lead by reckless leaders who have gone overboard in their immigration policy, opening their borders so wide that their societies are now at risk. Even though Islamic State mujahideen have announced that they are infiltrating the refugee stream to the West, they have been essentially welcomed. Islamic supremacists who regard “infidels” as inferiors, and Muslim Brotherhood members who have announced their plans in a strategic memorandum to destroy Western civilization from within are also welcomed. Anyone and everyone is welcomed, no matter how dangerous and damaging he or she might be to the society and the people of his new country.

The West has gone from being intelligently welcoming for the good of the whole to being reckless without accountability.

According to Orbán, many European leaders agree with Hungary’s policy on migration but are afraid to say so publicly. He also said that due to the recent surge of migration into Italy, the southern European nation may soon join Hungary and others in looking to secure their national borders.

PM Viktor Orban: ‘Hungary Is Not an Immigrant Country and Does Not Want to Become One’, by Thomas D. Williams, Breitbart, September 8, 2017:

Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s redoubtable Prime Minister, has made it clear that Hungary has no intention of caving into pressures from the European Union (EU) to become an “immigrant country,” in a new letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission.

In his September 6 letter, Orbán tells Mr. Juncker that unlike other European nations, “Hungary is not an immigrant country, does not want to become an immigrant country and cannot accept being forced to change this.”

Whereas other European nations have become immigrant countries due to obligations stemming from their colonial legacy, Hungary “has no colonial past” and thus feels no such obligation toward nations it has tried to dominate, he said.

France, for example, held territories in enormous geographical areas throughout Africa comprising over a dozen countries. Some of their local currencies are still directly linked to the French Central Bank.

In his letter, Orbán takes issue with Juncker’s definition of solidarity, saying that the transformation of Hungary into an immigrant country against the will of Hungarian citizens, “is not solidarity” but “violence.”

The prime minister also expressed his consternation with the European Commission’s unwillingness to aid Hungary in defending Europe’s borders.

“I was stunned and puzzled to read that you and the European Commission refuse to provide funds for the fence,” Orbán writes. “I am convinced that those who do not support the fence cannot and do not want to protect the citizens of the European Union.”…….

Earlier this summer, the prime minister asserted that the EU has adopted migration plans drafted by left-wing billionaire George Soros to bring in a million migrants per year, which militates against Europe’s best interests. Soros has proposed the creation of an EU immigration authority to remove the responsibility for immigration from individual EU Member States, he said.

Not long afterward, Italian media exposed a Soros-sponsored “Immigration Network” in Italy by tracing the provenance of pro-immigration funding back to dozens of organizations financed by Soros’ Open Society. Journalist Luca Donadel uncovered direct ties to Soros money in a web of 41 different groups linked to immigration.

According to Orbán, many European leaders agree with Hungary’s policy on migration but are afraid to say so publicly.

He also said that due to the recent surge of migration into Italy, the southern European nation may soon join Hungary and others in looking to secure their national borders.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 1:02 pm 
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"The double tap is a myth. Shoot the threat until it goes away. Only then will his soul find peace." -- Dalai Lama

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